A telescope is about to capture the first ever picture of a black hole! – Scientists have stated that the first picture of a black hole could be taken within days.
After all this time, we might finally get to witness the most crucial portrait in the universe – Black Hole. Beginning on April 5, scientists with the Event Horizon Telescope – eight radio observatories linked together into a massive network that spans the globe – will make an attempt to zoom in on one specific part of the universe, getting an image of a black hole.
In the telescope’s cross-hairs are two supermassive black holes, one at the center of the Milky Way, the other in the nearby galaxy M87, points out supermassive black holes, one at the center of the Milky Way, the other in the nearby galaxy M87, points out ScienceNews. Scientists hope to capture the light emitted by a halo of gas that swirls just outside the event horizon as the black hole swallows it up.
The closest astronomers have come to directly “seeing” a black hole happened last year when the LIGO observatory detected the space-time-warping gravitational waves radiating from a pair of black holes that reportedly collided some 1.3 billion years ago.
Black holes have continued to be an enigma, ever since they were first predicted mathematically by Karl Schwarzchild in 1915. These are extremely dense regions in space — dense to the point that their gravitational pull is so immense that nothing escapes them, not even light (hence the name.) Also, why were they ‘predicted mathematically’ and not observed practically, you ask? That’s because nobody ever has. Black holes, classically detected at the center of galaxies owing to their gravitational influence on the stars orbiting it, represent a conundrum that has baffled the mightiest of academic minds: from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking. They are a celestial phenomenon that has until now only been theoretically proposed to exist based on scientific observations of how light waves ‘bend’ as they travel past large bodies in space like planets, stars, and galaxies.
The new Event Horizon Telescope could change that. It is not one telescope but a collection scattered across the globe. These aren’t optical telescopes – the kind that uses visible light for observation – but radio telescopes that are sensitive to millimeter wavelengths radio waves; the kind that emanates from black holes. The collection of radio telescopes that comprise this ‘virtual telescope’ includes scopes from nine stations around the Earth, from individual telescopes to arrays in Chile, Hawaii, Mexico, Spain, Arizona, and Antarctica. The actual images may not be processed and ready for publishing until next year, but simulations mean that the team has a decent idea of what they should see.
With the addition of the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists now the ability to observe detail at unprecedented levels – comparable to an Earthly observer being able to discern a grape on the surface of the moon. This level of power is expected to lend astronomers and physicists the ability to actually observe details of a black hole’s event horizon: the border beyond which nothing escapes, and where known laws of physics cease to apply. Insights from such observations could have a profound effect on our understanding of astrophysics, our understanding of the origins of our universe, and in finally understanding the implications of Einstein’s space-time.